when you are at a reading and a poet does something lovely, it is not only the landscape of the brain where the epiphany lands. a turn in a poem, be it volta, or voltage, gets you right there at the bottom of your throat, just before where your heart vibrates, and in detroit, when it hits... we go:
"mmmm." or we go "mmnh." sometimes we go "fuccck...yesss...." or quiet, real quiet, we say "gotddiymn."
it's almost as if when the poem does hit, something in the diaphragm, in the vocal chords, in any part of the vibrational body must come out to greet the poet's voice halfway. must run out to the gate. must throw open its vocal arms. we have to. just have to. keeping it in? well, it would be like talking to the poet through a peephole. for the whole visit.
here, we let them in. and maybe, we, just a little bit, eat our poets. voice to voice. rocking sometimes, in our chairs, as their iambs and dactyls ebb and riff and take off and implode.
suffice to say, at readings, here, we talk back.
in all fairness, i've been to other cities where this happens. i'm inclined to think it might be a kind of familiarity with the world of open mikes, spoken word and slam. the interactivity. the engage. reader is not just reader. poet tells you her allusions. poet tells you some backstory. poet wants you to understand. it is not a trick, it is not a code. we are talking to each other.
sometimes, when i read other places, i have to get used to the dead quiet. when i visit other venues outside of detroit, i have to gurgle back to my poet at the stage...so soundlessly. undetectable. the poet, sadly, never knows he has been consumed.
and i've been to poetry sessions here in bars, coffee shops, libraries, schools. and make no mistake. detroit's audience is one of the most attentive i know. there is a stillness, a need, a hunger. oh, we listen.
sometimes we just makes noises when we eat.